A first novel from Newsweek correspondent Dickey (Expats, 1990, etc.) that honorably attempts--and ultimately fails--to detail the making of a latter-day terrorist. The son of Yugoslav refugees who wound up in rural Kansas, Kurt Kurtovic joins the US Army out of high-school to escape a dead-end existence with his widowed mother. He readily takes to the military life and works his way into the Rangers, becoming a demolitions expert. Although raised a Catholic, Kurt develops a growing interest in the hushed-up Islamic faith of his dead father. On a behind-the-lines mission during the Gulf War, he links up with the sinister Rashid, who calls himself a Kuwaiti freedom fighter. Vaguely discontented after the guns fall silent, Kurt leaves the Army and journeys to Bosnia in search of his family's past. In the Balkans, he runs into Rashid, who opens Kurt's eyes to the genocidal campaign Croats and Serbs are waging against indigenous Muslims. Following months of hill-country combat with Islamic irregulars, Kurt goes back to New York City to support Rashid's jihad, helping to create an anti-personnel bomb built around a smallpox virus. It finally occurs to the apprentice terrorist that the shifty Rashid (who, it turns out, is an agent of Saddam Hussein's) plans more than a controlled release for blackmail or demonstration purposes. At the close, Kurt is speeding to an Atlanta sports arena to kill his charismatic mentor before he can unleash the deadly toxin. In terms of his religious convictions and disaffection with the US, Kurt never quite comes to life. As a result, the sporadically suspenseful narrative lacks the menace it obviously was intended to have in recounting the metamorphosis of a likely all-American lad into an alienated avenger.